BrickCon 2023 Best in Show winner Kimberly Giffen talks about her LEGO rendition of the Silver Pavilion [Exclusive]

A little more than 11 months ago, I wrote up a beautiful LEGO tea house by my very talented LUG-mate Kimberly Giffen. That build, The Giffen Gardens, won Best in Show at BrickCon 2022. And here I am, after another BrickCon, pleased to say that Kimberly was able to repeat her achievement and win the Best in Show once again with a recreation of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkakuji) from Kyoto, Japan. I had a chance to talk with Kimberly after the convention about her work, and was able to learn a lot about the model and her process.

Inspired heavily by the work shown in the Architecture theme at Bricks Cascade and by Instagram brick artist darksamishgray, she knew her next build would focus on a Japanese structure. She set to work researching for weeks, drawing heavily from the video game Ghosts of Tsushima, a game set in 15th century Japan which her husband was playing at the time. After pouring over paused screens in the game and the internet, Kim landed on the Silver Pavilion because of its medium size and distinct features captured well via the brick. And from what she could tell, the landmark had yet to get the LEGO treatment. She then set to work building the model on May 28th.

While scale is something that she’s been exploring a lot over the past year, miniland remains her favorite as it allows for more intricate details than smaller dimensions. In the Silver Pavilion, this meant she was able to capture such intricate details as lattice work, railings, and ornamental sculptures to a better degree than if minifigures were used. She admits, though, that the scope of the build as a whole can certainly become a challenge when working with minilanders. Below are those inhabitants she crafted for the temple.

I’ve seen a lot of Kimberly’s work at the monthly meetings of SPSLUG (South Puget Sound LEGO Users Group), and from that I can tell just how much she loves working in natural forms. Whether it’s rocks, waterfalls, or trees, all her organic shapes are uniquely crafted to enhance her overall builds. And as such, I had to ask if she had a favorite tree design she’d come up with. She said that the red maple hidden within her most-recent creation is by far her favorite. And with Kimberly being the expert here on organic design, I’ll let her talk about it instead of me:

“Trees are really something that evolve with practice and parts you have available… Having parts that curve is a game changer in making trees more organic. What makes the red tree cool is it starts out similar to the LEGO bonsai trunk with an angled base. The trunk uses arches to have exposed roots but it also sits on a turntable so the placement angle can break the grid of the surrounding landscape. A few red leaves hide the transition from the base and SNOT [Studs Not On Top] work to the tree and a network of technic axle joiners, pin joiners and curved tail parts. It was a key goal to not have horizontal limbs at the end of the branches. They’re either hinges or simple flower stems. Limbs and leaves then made the foliage two tone, so the dark red limbs fade into the background beneath the sea of red leaves, adding a bit of depth. This single tree uses 20 large limbs and 170 leaves. Placement in the MOC [My Own Creation] was also important with a bold color, as it helped draw the viewer into the garden.”

Finally, as this is her second build featuring koi swimming in a pond. I asked if this was a theme she intended to continue. Our master builder said that while the koi won’t necessarily show up in her next creation, there is an Easter egg hidden in both of her award-winning builds that she intends to maintain in future designs. But you’ll have to discover that common thread on your own. Congrats to Kimberly on another well-earned Best in Show trophy!